Background: In 2020 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be the third leading cause of death world-wide causing considerable health costs. Epidemiological data to estimate the future development of COPD in Austria were not available so far.
Methods: In the context of the international Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) study, a random sample of the population of Salzburg was surveyed to determine the prevalence of COPD. The definition of COPD followed the GOLD classification. A prior physician's diagnosis of COPD, emphysema or chronic bronchitis was evaluated by questionnaire. The age- and sex-specific prevalence of COPD was extrapolated using demographic data of the Austrian population for the years 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020. Undiagnosed COPD was considered present, whenever irreversible airways obstruction was measured (FEV1/FVC < 0.7), but a doctor's diagnosis of COPD, emphysema or chronic bronchitis has not been made.
Results: For 2005 1.047.150 Austrians aged 40 years and older were estimated in GOLD stage I-IV. 431.080 persons over 40 years were affected by COPD in GOLD stage II-IV needing therapy. The percentage of undiagnosed COPD was 88,5%. For the years 2010, 2015 and 2020 GOLD stage I-IV COPD was projected to rise by 7,8%, 16.1% and 24%, respectively.
Conclusion: Measures to prevent COPD are absolutely necessary to forestall the projected burden of this disease in Austria.